Let's get started with the Fox News Report:
We want to believe. We really, really do. However, unless a new German study about men staring at b**bs just came out in a foreign research journal, Fox's source is a really, really old Internet urban legend. We dug a little deeper, checked out some of the facts, and discovered that the so-called study, which Fox News recently aired and presented online as somewhat true, is actually part of an extremely dated chain e-mail forward that started circulating in 2000. Here's the e-mail:
This is not a joke. It came from the New England Journal of Medicine. Great news for girl watchers: Ogling over women's breasts is good for a man's health and can add years to his life, medical experts have discovered. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “Just 10 minutes of staring at the charms of a well-endowed female is roughly equivalent to a 30-minute aerobics work-out” declared gerontologist Dr. Karen Weatherby.
Dr. Weatherby and fellow researchers at three hospitals in Frankfurt, Germany, reached the startling conclusion after comparing the health of 200 male outpatients – half of whom were instructed to look at busty females daily, the other half told to refrain from doing so. The study revealed that after five years, the chest-watchers had lower blood pressure, slower resting pulse rates and fewer instances of coronary artery disease.
“Sexual excitement gets the heart pumping and improves blood circulation,” explains Dr. Weatherby. “There's no question: Gazing at breasts makes men healthier.” “Our study indicates that engaging in this activity a few minutes daily cuts the risk of stroke and heart attack in half. We believe that by doing so consistently, the average man can extend his life four to five years.”
There's no reason to believe Fox isn't citing something similar, as the anchor clearly cites “a German study” and they wiggle in that little factoid about staring at b**bs 10 minutes a day. All of the doctor's quotes are the same. Meanwhile, an About.com “Net Lore” writer notes this “study” was never published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. You can check for yourself. As for Dr. Weatherby? She's pretty much made up as well, as the NEJM archives show absolutely zero results when searching for her name.
So, where did the e-mail about staring at women's breasts originate from? It's basically a regurgitation of an article from the super market tabloid “Weekly World News.” The article was printed in its March 21, 2000, issue, the one with an ominous cover about Nostradamus prophecies and a feature story about portals from earth into hell.
The only difference between the tabloid report and the e-mail forward is that Dr. Franz Epping is the researcher in charge. There's no reason to believe Dr. Weatherby is his partner on the study, or even resident research assistant (research assistants don't talk to the media, especially on a groundbreaking study like this). Also, the March 21, 2000, article is a copy-and-paste job of an even older Weekly World News Report from May 13, 1997. See for yourself here.
So, what was the source of the Weekly World News story dating back to 1997? Considering the source, there's no saying whether it's sexy, sensationalized fiction (probably), or simply hearsay presented as fact. Dr. Franz Epping, the researcher cited in the story, doesn't appear to exist in the NEJM's archive either. In August of 2000, a News of the World editor vouched for the study's veracity to the Seattle Times, but admitted to sensationalizing it “a bit”:
“It was a straight-up story,” Eddie told me. “I think it came from The New England Journal of Medicine. We just sensationalized it a bit.” Well, maybe we got it from an AP story that said it came from The New England Journal of Medicine,” Eddie said. Or maybe they saw the story on the Internet that said it was an AP story. “That's probably what happened. If it's relatively harmless, we don't go to great lengths to find the sources,” Eddie said. He then explained his publication's philosophy, a philosophy that isn't exactly covered in journalism seminars. “It's not like,” Eddie explained, “we're telling people to put bug spray on their cereal.”
The moral of the story? Even in 2011, don't believe everything you see on the Internet. Or Fox News.